Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce recipe is authentic as can be and is, according to many we’ve heard of the absolute best Bolognese sauce recipe ever. It’s also easy and impressive.

A blue bowl filled with pappardelle noodles and Marcella Hazan's bolognese sauce on a wooden board with a block of Parmesan and a grater beside the bowl.

Marcella Hazan, in her inimitable fashion, offers the home cook an authentic Bolognese sauce recipe, the traditional kind an Italian grandmother would approve of, thank you very much. This is my version of her recipe, with very subtle tweaks. It takes a while to make, although most of the time the Bolognese is spent simmering, unattended, on the back burner except for occasionally making lazy eights with a wooden spoon.David Leite

☞ READ THE ARTICLE: IN DEFENSE OF GRANDMOTHER COOKING

Bolognese Sauce FAQs

What’s the difference between Bolognese and spaghetti sauce?

In essence, Bolognese sauce is spaghetti sauce. Though it’s no ordinary meat sauce. It’s a long, slowly simmered sauce that’s richer and creamier than your everyday marinara due to the inclusion of milk. It also is less predominated by tomatoes than your typical marinara. It’s named for its city of origin, Bologna.

Is there really no garlic, oregano, and basil in traditional Bolognese?

Believe it or not, traditional Bolognese contains none of the aromatic herbs or spices that many consider necessary in all Italian dishes. You may be tempted to add them, but do your best to resist. The nutmeg is a must – don’t leave that out.

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce

A blue bowl filled with pappardelle noodles and Marcella Hazan's bolognese sauce on a wooden board with a block of Parmesan and a grater beside the bowl.
Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce recipe is authentic as can be and is, according to many we’ve heard of the absolute best Bolognese sauce recipe ever. It’s also easy and impressive.
Marcella Hazan

Prep 20 mins
Cook 5 hrs 40 mins
Total 6 hrs
Mains
Italian
8 servings
445 kcal
4.86 / 102 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped celery
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 pound ground chuck (I used 1/2 pound chuck and 1/2 pound veal)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or a pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups canned imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand with their juice
  • As much pasta as you wish (Marcella prefers tagliatelle) cooked and drained
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table

Directions
 

  • In a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil and 6 tablespoons butter until the butter melts and stops foaming. Toss in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Toss in the celery and carrot and cook, stirring to coat them with the oil and butter, for 2 minutes.
  • Add the chuck and pork, a very healthy pinch of salt, and a goodly amount of pepper. Crumble the meat with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meats have lost their raw red color.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Pour in the milk and simmer gently, stirring frequently, until the liquid has completely evaporated, about 1 hour.
  • Stir in the nutmeg. Pour in the wine and gently simmer, stirring frequently, until it's evaporated, about 1 1/4 hours more.
  • Add the tomato purée or crushed tomatoes and stir well. When the tomato puree begins to bubble, turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers with just an intermittent bubble breaking the surface.
  • Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is burbling away, there's a chance that it'll start drying out. To keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching, add 1/2 cup water if necessary, just know that it's crucial that by the time the sauce has finished simmering, the water should be completely evaporated, and the fat should separate from the sauce.
  • Take a spoonful—or two—of sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.
Print RecipeBuy the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Notes

What You Need To Know About Making The Most Classic Italian Bolognese

Following are some techniques and tricks to ensure the most classic Italian Bolognese:
The more marbled the meat, the sweeter the ragu. (The most desirable cut of meat is the neck portion of the chuck. You may have to special order it from your butcher.)
It’s important to salt the meat as soon as it hits the pan. This draws out the juices and imparts flavor to the Bolognese.
Use a heavy pot that will retain heat. I use my Le Creuset 5-quart Dutch oven. Avoid using cast-iron, as the acid can interact with the metal and turn the sauce a blech color.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 445kcal (22%)Carbohydrates: 16g (5%)Protein: 20g (40%)Fat: 29g (45%)Saturated Fat: 14g (88%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 95mg (32%)Sodium: 233mg (10%)Potassium: 797mg (23%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 10g (11%)Vitamin A: 4305IU (86%)Vitamin C: 12mg (15%)Calcium: 138mg (14%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is the perfect recipe to make if you’re stuck in the house doing chores and can’t leave. A little prep work and a little stir every now and then gives you a wonderful smell throughout your house and a nice, thick sauce for your pasta. I love that there isn’t a strong tomato taste to this sauce, unlike most commercial jar sauces. This is pure, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.

All you need is some warm bread and you have a meal. The next time I make it I’ll probably omit the oil, as I felt there was a little too much oil floating on top when it was ready to serve.

Originally published January 31, 2012

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Pro-tip: Add 1-2 red Thai chilli peppers finely diced, but no more than this. The goal here is to add heat, but not so much that it alters the flavours of the sauce. This recipe is amazing just as it is, but for those of us that like a bit of heat, this is a nice alternative.

    1. I’m making this now, I’ve been simmering meat with milk for over an hour and the liquid has not evaporated. Can I go to next step or drain it?

      1. Lisa, I’ve made this recipe at least 50 times and have never had ALL of the liquid evaporate. Reason is that it’s the fat which doesn’t. My tip is to take a spoonful and hold it on an ice cube. This will gel the fat and not the milk/wine and show you where you are. DO NOT remove the fat. I tried that once and it ruined the sauce.

      2. Lisa, apologies that I didn’t see this sooner. I would have suggested increasing the heat to help evaporate the liquid. How did it turn out?

  2. I’ve made this twice now, and it’s a good recipe. Lots of flavour, and good texture.
    One tip: cook it one day, let it simmer for several hours, let cool, and put into the fridge until the next day. Then simmer again for two to three hours before serving. Flavours blend beautifully that way, and the texture keeps improving.

  3. 5 stars
    My third go with this variation on the original Marcella Hazan recipe. I’ve prepared the original several times – it’s a favorite but tweaking recipes is always fun.
    This time I used pancetta (often found in other variations) and it added no additional flavor but a considerable amount of unwanted fat. If I were to repeat this process, I’d render the fat from the pancetta and then add to the ingredients when the meat is introduced to the mix.
    Otherwise, this is my go-to for Bolognese.

    1. Thanks, John! We’re delighted that you keep coming back to this recipe and love hearing about your changes and results.

      1. Quoting Marcella:

        “Curiously, considering the popularity of the dish in the United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth, meat sauce in Bologna is never served over spaghetti.”

        Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, p. 204

  4. Do you think I could substitute half and half for the whole milk? That’s what I have sitting in my fridge right now.

    1. You could swap half and half for the milk, Melanie. It will add extra richness to the dish, which is never a bad thing, but if you don’t want the extra fat, you could combine the half and half with some regular milk (if available) or water to get it closer to a whole milk consistency.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish